Eric Clapton, B.B. King Rule Week Of Diverse Releases

Lomax collections plus new ones from Cowboy Nation, Christine Lavin, Judith Edelman round out new offerings.

The long-awaited collaboration between Eric Clapton and B.B. King, Riding With the King, is sparking the biggest buzz in a week of diverse releases.

Also noteworthy are witty songwriter Christine Lavin, bluegrass-influenced Americana artist Judith Edelman, the acoustic cowboy folk of Cowboy Nation (featuring former Rank & File members Chip and Tony Kinman), socially conscious Zimbabwean guitarist/singer-songwriter Oliver Mtukudzi, two compilations of field recordings from ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax, and a Buddy Miller-produced disc by spirited folk-rock tunesmiths Bill Mallonee and the Vigilantes of Love.

(Click here for a select list of the week's CD releases.)

Eric Clapton and B.B. King talked for years about working together, and their hopes to collaborate in the studio have finally come to fruition. Co-produced by Clapton and Simon Climie, Riding With the King — named for the title tune (RealAudio excerpt), a 1983 John Hiatt song — is a 12-track cruise through blues past and present, contemplative and funky. Backed by Clapton's regular band as well as keyboardists Joe Sample and Tim Carmon and guitarists Jimmie Vaughan and Doyle Bramhall II — who also contributed two songs, "Marry You" and "I Wanna Be" (RealAudio excerpt) from his Jellycream album — Clapton and King dig into five nuggets from King's extensive catalogue and revisit Big Bill Broonzy's "Key to the Highway," which Clapton recorded with Duane Allman in Derek and the Dominos. The album closes with two unexpected choices: the Sam & Dave soul classic "Hold on I'm Coming" (RealAudio excerpt), and an elegant turn through the Johnny Mercer-Harold Arlen standard "Come Rain or Come Shine" (RealAudio excerpt).

A Journey Out of Time is Cowboy Nation's follow-up to their eponymously titled 1997 debut. Striving to highlight the lyrical relevancy of cowboy music instead of mummifying it, their sparse sound emphasizes the tight harmonies of brothers Chip and Tony Kinman and the simple story songs that are the bedrock of folk, country and cowboy traditions.

The Kinmans achieved some renown in punk-rock band the Dils and later in early roots-rock outfit Rank & File with then-bandmate Alejandro Escovedo.

City Nurtured Bluegrass Roots

Judith Edelman is the unlikely product of a tony upbringing in New York as the daughter of an editor mother and a Nobel Prize-winning dad. She was classically trained on piano, but after becoming smitten by the sounds of the Stanley Brothers, she hit the road playing with bluegrass bands such as Ryestraw. As evidenced by her latest album, Drama Queen, her solo work gently weaves her bluegrass influences with folk and Celtic flavors.

For The Bellevue Years, respected songwriter Christine Lavin, who co-founded the Four Bitchin' Babes folk group, took previously recorded tracks and augmented them with live tracks she made while working at New York's Bellevue Hospital. Her trademark wit is intact during interviews also recorded then, and in songs such as "If You Want Space, Go to Utah," "Cold Pizza for Breakfast" and "I Want to Be the First Folk Singer on the Space Shuttle."

Austin, Texas-born ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax has made an amazing number of field recordings around the world. Rounder's Alan Lomax Collection is an ongoing series of reissues of his recordings in America, Europe and the Caribbean. Deep River of Song: Big Brazos and Deep River of Song: Virginia are recordings he made with his father, folklorist John A. Lomax, in the 1930s and '40s, remastered to 20-bit digital. Deep River of Song: Big Brazos is a 20-song collection of work songs as rendered by Texas prisoners, including classics such as "Stewball" and "Long John."

The Virginia recordings purport to trace the musical connections between free whites and blacks from the post-Civil War Reconstruction era to the present. The 28 tunes by unknowns and such artists as Josh White, Willie Williams, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, include the standards "Ol' Dan Tucker," "Worried Blues" and "John Henry."

As if there was any question about who's the driving creative force behind Vigilantes of Love, songwriter Bill Mallonee's name is sharing marquee space with that of his critically applauded folk-rock band. Audible Sigh was produced by longtime fan Buddy Miller and features harmony contributions from Julie Miller and Emmylou Harris.

U.S. Artists Endorse Zimbabwean

Zimbabwean star Oliver Mtukudzi has scored high marks with critics and audiences at folk and world music festivals around the globe. Paivepo ("once upon a time" in his native Shona tongue) is his second album to be released here, and follows last year's widely praised Tuku Music. Bonnie Raitt, who solicited Mtukudzi's input to help finish "One Belief Away" on her Fundamental album and subsequently supplied liner notes for Tuku Music, is one of several American artists who sing his praises. Mtukudzi's subject matter — AIDS, poverty, abuse of women, changing mores, personal responsibility — mirrors the topicality of classic folk music.